San Francisco

Actually Cool Things You Can (Still) Do in San Francisco This Winter

Fun still exists. We promise.

Courtesy of San Francisco Recreation and Park Department
Courtesy of San Francisco Recreation and Park Department
Courtesy of San Francisco Recreation and Park Department

While people all over the country hunker down to avoid winter’s frigid temps, those of us in SF are usually able to spend this time of year frolicking outside enjoying, for the most part, relatively mild weather and sunny skies. We’re going to need that good weather more than ever right now, since almost everything fun to do for (at least) the next couple of months will either take place outdoors or in our homes. Despite the fact that pretty much nothing looks the same-bars are still closed, dining rules are constantly changing, the 49ers can’t practice or play in Santa Clara, and… well, you get it ‘cause you’re living it-we still want to inspire you to have fun and take advantage of some of the amazing things this town has to offer, both in-person and virtually.

You don’t need us to tell you, but just a reminder that the restrictions are ever-changing, so please keep that in mind and check before you do anything or go anywhere.

Attend Nightlife at the California Academy of Sciences (without leaving your home)

Free
Your home or anywhere with internet
Okay, so the best part of NightLife is that you get to cruise around the Academy of Sciences and check out all of the exhibits with a cocktail in hand, then hit the dance floor, visit another galaxy in the Planetarium, and interact with some smart scientists. The museum will either be closed or at 25% capacity this winter, which means it’s not possible to do all of those things, but you can attend Virtual NightLife events, an “eclectic mix of science, music, and art” streamed live. BYO cocktails every other Thursday. Miss those smart scientists also? NightShool, an online deeper dive into a “single science-related theme” happens on the Thursdays when NightLife isn’t happening.
 

Watch independent films at SF IndieFest

$
Local theaters
If SF IndieFest gets its way, you’ll be able to watch all of the independent features, shorts, docs, and animation films in the festival at actual movie theaters this February (4 – 18). Obviously, nothing is certain at this point, but we can keep our fingers crossed.

Eirik Uhlen / Unsplash
Eirik Uhlen / Unsplash
Eirik Uhlen / Unsplash

Enjoy a picnic in the park

$
Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, Alamo Square, McLaren Park, etc.
How lucky are we that San Francisco has 220 city parks (one every half-mile), more than any other city in the US? If you weren’t taking advantage of them before COVID, you probably are now since they’re full of hiking trails, green spaces, gardens, and, maybe our favorite: lots of places to unfurl a blanket, and let the relaxation and indulgence (usually in the form of food and adult beverages-legal in most SF parks) begin. Check current restrictions since, from at least December 6 to January 4, SF is asking people not to gather outdoors and eat (yup, even in a park).
 

Walk, run, or bike down John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park

Free
Golden Gate Park
At the end of April, London Breed closed a large portion of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park to vehicles. Frankly, we think this should be how it is all of the time, regardless of a pandemic, but for now it does make social distancing much easier. Our favorite walk is from the park entrance all the to the beach with stops at the Redwood Grove, Prayer Cross, and Bison paddock along the way. It’s about seven miles round-trip, but mostly flat, so you won’t huff and puff too much.

Courtesy of San Francisco Ferry Building
Courtesy of San Francisco Ferry Building
Courtesy of San Francisco Ferry Building

Eat your way through the Ferry Building

$ to $$
Embarcadero
The historic Ferry Building is a stunning piece of architecture (completed in 1898 as the largest construction project in SF at the time), but what’s really amazing about it is all of the delicious artisan food, lots of which is still available. There’s no outdoor dining through January 4 (at a minimum), but you can still pick up oysters to shuck at home from Hog Island Oyster Company or a delicious burger and milkshake from Gott’s Roadside, as well as bread from Acme Bread Company, cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, chocolate from Dandelion, and beer, wine, and liquor from Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant. You know, all of the staples. 
 

Explore an illuminated enchanted forest 

Free
Peacock Meadow, Golden Gate Park
This winter, Peacock Meadow (just east of the Conservatory of Flowers) is being transformed into an illuminated art installation. “Entwined,” by San Francisco artist Charles Gadeken, honors Golden Gate Park’s 150th birthday with LED light sculptures that will wind up trees, cluster into bushes, and fill the space with radiating light. 

Courtesy of Fort Point National Historic Site
Courtesy of Fort Point National Historic Site
Courtesy of Fort Point National Historic Site

Ride your bike or walk to Fort Point

Free
The Presidio
If you’re not going to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge (or even if you are), head to Crissy Field and walk or bike along the waterfront promenade until you get to this fort built for the Civil War that overlooks the Golden Gate. It’s a great place to take pics of the bridge, watch surfers narrowly miss jagged rocks and, though you can’t go inside right now, take in a little piece of history while you’re at it. Don’t forget to high-five or high-10 Hoppers Hands when you get there (just make sure you use hand sanitizer before and after). You’re not technically supposed to picnic with others through at least January 4, but we won’t tell if you bring a blanket and enjoy a sandwich and a beer on the beach or one of the lawns. 
 

Experience virtual plays put on by Berkeley Rep

$ to $$
BerkelyRep.org
Berkeley Rep is hoping to return to live theater at some point in 2021, but for now they’re focused on “innovative storytelling that speaks not only to our time, but also the things we collectively crave” that we can enjoy from home. Through December, you can experience a “spectacle” inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Following that (dates TBD), will be an aural adventure that takes you around Berkeley and a digital experience of a play based on Virginia Woolf’s The Waves.

The Buena Vista
The Buena Vista
The Buena Vista

Get an Irish coffee at Buena Vista Café

$
Fisherman’s Wharf
Stave off SF’s winter chill with a famous and delicious Irish coffee from Buena Vista, the first place to serve Irish coffee in the US. Usually you have to enjoy it inside the always-crowded restaurant, but since you’re not allowed to right now, they’re offering a to-go version of the boozy pick-me-up. Sure, you’ll have to enjoy it in a paper cup instead of the signature curved glass, but fact that you can easily make it a double (it’s add-your-own-whiskey), enjoy it outside with water views, and that you’re even able to get a Buena Vista Irish coffee at all right now will soften the blow of sipping through a plastic lid.
 

Watch the Warriors (hopefully) win a lot of games

Free 
Cable TV, streaming
Losing Klay Thompson for the season was exactly what we didn’t need this year, but there’s still a good chance the Golden State Warriors will have a good season. Either way, sports are a much-needed distraction right now and since the 49ers were ravaged by injuries leading to a disappointing season, it will be fun to have something to root for again. 

Courtesy of Merchant Roots
Courtesy of Merchant Roots
Courtesy of Merchant Roots

Go to a Mad Tea Party full of surprises

$$$
Merchant Roots, The Fillmore
Merchant Roots creates some of the most amazing tasting menus you’ll find in SF, all of which rotate quarterly, but their newest creation-their fine dining take on a mad tea party-is their best one yet. There are just two tables in the tiny outdoor parklet, and they’ve been dressed up in cozy individual (heated) open-air shelters with lanterns and upside down tea kettles, ticking clocks, and more. The food is phenomenal-think fancy tea party-meets-traditional English classics, but the experience is about so much more than the food. We don’t want to ruin any of the many antics and surprises, but just know that there will be delightful moments throughout. To say this was the best dining experience we’ve had in years-COVID or otherwise-would not be an exaggeration. (Obviously, Merchant Roots is not doing indoor or outdoor dining through January 4, but hopefully they’ll be able to resume serving this whimsical culinary adventure soon after. In the meantime, you can still get their cookies, which we’d argue are the best in SF, delivered locally and nationwide.)
 

Walk all the way across San Francisco

Free
Bayview to Outer Richmond
Put on your most comfortable shoes and head out on the Crosstown Trail, a 17-mile urban hike that takes you through tons of SF neighborhoods, including McLaren Park, Glen Canyon, Golden Gate Park, and Seacliff. The trail is a mix of paved roads/paths and trails, is about 2,600 feet of elevation, and offers great views, cool tiled staircases, a chance to see SF in a whole new way, and satisfaction for having actually done it. Keep in mind that the sun goes down earlier in the winter, so you’ll want to get an early start if you want to do the whole thing in one day.

San Francisco Botanical Garden
San Francisco Botanical Garden
San Francisco Botanical Garden

Spend an afternoon exploring the Botanical Garden

Free for SF residents
Golden Gate Park
For the month of december and possibly beyond, most of SF’s enclosed outdoor spaces (playgrounds, the zoo, the Japanese Tea Garden and other outdoor museums, etc.) are closed, but one small gift is that the Botanical Garden, a 55-acre “urban oasis” with more than 9,000 plants from around the world, is exempt from the stay-at-home order. There are some things that shine year-round, like the conifers and palms, but the winter is a good time to see a lot of the camellias and magnolias bloom, as well as a cool colorful plant called banksia seminuda (Australian garden), as well as other winter plants that you’ll have to google since we aren’t certified botanists.
 

See what the ACT is doing to keep us entertained at home

Free to $$
ACT-SF.org
The American Conservatory Theatre knows that the show must go on, so for the start of 2021, it’s productions are all available to enjoy at home. December features a “radio” version of A Christmas Carol that might have made us cry, followed by a series of play readings, virtual talks, and more.

Photo by Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Photo by Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Photo by Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Head to Tahoe to ski or snowboard

$$
About 200 miles northeast of SF
Okay, so this one isn’t in SF, but what is more SF than driving in crazy Tahoe traffic to enjoy a weekend in the snowy mountains? Skiing definitely looks a lot different this year-masks are required, you can’t sit next to strangers on the chair lifts, and, for now anyway, you can’t warm up with a hot toddy at the bar. Still, it’s something fun you can do outside, so we’ll take it. Hotels are opening and closing in accordance with state guidelines, but Airbnbs are still in full effect, if you’re not lucky enough to know someone with a second home. All of the resorts have different policies about lift tickets, so you’ll want to check ahead of time. Only potential bummer: It’s a La Niña year, so we’ll all need to pray for snow.
 

Drink a lot of beer in honor of SF Beer Week

$
Various bars around SF/TBD
There’s not an official plan for SF Beer Week yet since so much about bars and restaurants is still up in the air, but the website promises that “something big is brewing” and asks you to save the date (February 21 – February 21). Seems like even if we are still not allowed to eat or drink outdoors at that time, there will still be some special things you can pick up and enjoy at home. Here’s hoping, anyway.Sign up here for our daily San Francisco email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun SF has to offer.

Daisy Barringer is an SF-based freelance writer who is using this time to explore the city on foot. Follow her on Instagram @daisysf to see secret staircases, spring blooms, gorgeous views, and all over the other magical things in SF that make this place the best place to live.

San Francisco

How to Celebrate Black History Month in San Francisco

Support and celebrate SF's Black community.

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Though it’s something we need to be doing every day of every month of every year, Black History Month encourages us to pay tribute to the struggles and oppression generations of Black Americans have faced, as well as their often-neglected triumphs and achievements that have helped shape this county and make it better. It’s a time to reflect on how we can do better to confront racism and oppression, which this year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” echoes. This is especially important in a town like San Francisco, where the Fillmore District was known as “the Harlem of the West” before the city displaced a vast portion of the neighbourhood’s Black community in the ’60s and ’70s. This displacement continues today, as the Black population is the only racial group that has declined in every census since 1970.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are lots to do. Whether you want to educate yourself by attending films, performances, or conversations, share the joy at a parade or dance party, or do a little bit of it all at a drag show, here are just a few ways you can get involved and have a lot of fun while doing so:

Visit San Francisco Public Library branches for workshops, films, performances, and more

February (and throughout the year)
Library branches and online
SFPL’s “More Than a Month” celebration focuses on the theme of resistance this year. Family-friendly and adult events include film screenings, musical performances, book clubs, workshops, and more.
Cost: Free

Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora

See art, poetry, films, talks, and more at MoAD

February (and throughout the year)
SoMa
Right now, at the Museum of African Diaspora, you can see the first and only West Coast exhibition of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” which highlights the work of 15 contemporary fashion designers “whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power.” The museum, which has a robust year-round program and event calendar, has a slew of events to attend, including youth poetry readings, film screenings, open mic nights, book clubs, artist talks, and more.
Cost: Event prices vary; GA to visit the museum is $12 but free every second Saturday of the month

Check out films, art, reading, talks, and more at BAMPFA

February (and throughout the year)
Berkeley
There is always something interesting to discover at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). During Black History Month, you can see films by Pratibha Parmar, “Felwine Sarr: Music, Freedom, Africa,” a conversation through music with the Senegalese writer, scholar, composer, musician, and more.
Cost: Varies

Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe

Enjoy menu specials honoring Black community members at Old Skool Cafe

February (and throughout the year)
Bayview
For Black History Month, Old Skool Cafe is adding the favourite meals of notable Black community members to the menu each weekend. The nonprofit, youth-run supper club helps at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth ages 16-22 gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in various front and back-of-house restaurant roles. Bayview hero/community advocate Mrs. Dorris Vincent is first up, followed by Judge Trina Thompson, Delroy Lindo, and Mayor London Breed.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens

Walk beneath the Marting Luther King, Jr. Memorial waterfall

February (and ongoing)
Yerba Buena Gardens
Did you know that Yerba Buena Gardens is home to the country’s second-largest memorial to Dr. King? Visit the sculptural waterfall featuring glass panels inscribed with his inspiring words at 750 Howard Street.
Cost: Free

Attend the Commonwealth’s “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence” conference

Thursday, February 9
Embarcadero
On behalf of Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Club is hosting its second annual Dream Keeper Initiative, a day-long conference/celebration/call-to-action featuring special guests, including April Ryan of TheGrio and CNN.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays

Celebrate Black Love at Oakland First Fridays

Friday, February 10
Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street
Telegraph Avenue transforms into a dining, shopping, and art-appreciating party on Friday, February 10, from 5 pm to 9 pm. There will be food, artist, and retail vendors and a host of Black artists, authors, and entertainment. Please note: This event was rescheduled from February 3 because of potential rain.
Cost: Free

Have a ball at an all-Black drag show at Oasis

Friday, February 10
SoMa
“Reparations with Latrice Royale” is an all-Black drag show hosted by Latrice Royale, the beloved Drag Race star who also happens to be celebrating her birthday.
Cost: $15 to $60

Dance all night and shop all day at the Afro Soca Love carnival and marketplace

Friday, February 10 ‚Äď Saturday, February 11
341 13th Street, Oakland
Afro Soca Love creates experiences that act as a “gateway to building bonds and strengthen relationships-between communities, individuals, and Africa and its diaspora.” See for yourself at the all-ages marketplace (Saturday), where you’ll find food and drink, fashion, beauty and wellness, home decor, and more. But before the shopping comes the dancing at the 21+ Friday Night Carnival, a culturally immersive music experience with music from all over the world.
Cost: The marketplace is free; tickets to the Friday Night Carnival start at $20

See a live performance of “Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education”

Saturday, February 11
Unity Palo Alto
See a live theatrical performance based on the true events that occurred in the fight to end school segregation. The script draws from trial transcripts of the five cases brought together in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s memoirs, and the play is set in the courtrooms where it all happened. There will be a Q&A with the playwright before the performance and the cast afterward.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company

Go to the I, Too, Sing America album release party

Saturday, February 11
Mission
Head to the Brava Theater Center to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s album release of the music created for I, Too, Sing America, a soulful and uplifting performance that moved audiences when it debuted last year. The night includes an album-listening and sing-along party, DJs, dancing, an open bar, and more.
Cost: $40

Go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour of West Oakland

Saturday, February 18
West Oakland
Take a walk with David Peters, founder of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network, and Gene Anderson, the author of Legendary Locals of Oakland, to learn about resident voices and document sites of cultural and historical significance in the neighbourhood. Peters is a local native, and Anderson is an Oakland historian whose family has historical roots in West Oakland.
Cost: $50 ($30 for West Oakland residents)

See a screening of The Black Kung Fu Experience followed by in-person demonstrations

Sunday, February 19
Great Star Theater, Chinatown
The Chinese Historical Society of America is celebrating Black History Month and social unity with a screening of this film about how a group of African American pioneers became respected in a subculture dominated by Chinese and white men. Afterward, there will be demonstrations and talks with Sifu Donald Hamby and Sifu Troy Dunwood, who “will speak about their success as internationally recognized martial arts masters, their Chinese Kung Fu teachers, and what this practice means in relation to diversity, race and inclusion issues.”
Cost: $15

Sip wine made by Black winemakers at a free tasting event at STEM Kitchen + Garden

Thursday, February 23
Dogpatch
STEM Kitchen + Garden is hosting an afternoon wine tasting celebrating Black-owned wineries in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, and best of all, and it’s free to the public!
Cost: Free

Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House

Attend the San Francisco African American Arts & Cultural District Gala Fundraiser

Saturday, February 25
Bayview Opera House
Enjoy an evening of talent, fashion, and community inspiration at SFAAACD’s 1st Annual Gala Fundraiser. Carla Duke, Television News Director at CBS-KPIX Chanel 5, will host the event, which includes inspiring words from keynote speaker Aniyia Williams, an artist, tech creator, and system-preneur.
Cost: $100

Attend a Black History Month & Chinese New Year Poetry Reading on Angel Island

Saturday, February 25
Angel Island
There is so much history in poetry at the Angel Island Detention Barracks Museum, which makes it a fitting location for poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr. The co-founders of Two Languages/One Community will share their poems and stories in English and Chinese, accompanied by projected images of text and photographs.
Cost: $10 to $21

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Feel the joy at the Black Joy Parade

Sunday, February 26
Downtown Oakland
This parade and festival celebrate the “Black experience past, present, and future.” Be prepared to experience “more Black joy than you ever imagined,” starting with the parade (beginning at 14th and Franklin) at 12:30 pm. The family-friendly festival follows (main entrance is at 19th and Franklin) will include 200-plus Black-owned small businesses selling food, drinks, clothing, art, and more. There will also be two stages with Black performers, including The Black Joy Choir.
Cost: Free

Take a sound bath at Grace Cathedral in honor of Black History Month

Monday, February 27
Nob Hill
Take an immersive sound bath featuring Fractals of Sound, a collective of top Bay Area musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, and Sam Jackson, with special guest Destiny Muhammad. Together, they will create a “soundscape deeply rooted in world music,” allowing you to take a meditative journey in one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco.
Cost: $25 to $75

See Tsitsi Dangarembga and Angela Davis at City Arts & Lectures

Tuesday, February 28
Civic Center
Co-presented with MoAd, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis for what’s sure to be a riveting conversation.
Cost: $36

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Daisy Barringer¬†is an SF-based freelance writer who spent many childhood days wandering around the Exploratorium. Follow her on¬†Instagram¬†to see what she’s up to now.

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